Thursday, March 31, 2011

What Is It?

I don't know how to explain it but I am in such high spirits this morning! I feel as if I could conquer anything you set before me. There is such newness to this day. Is it the promise of plenty of melting of the snow as the temps finally reach the high 40's? Is it the great prospect of a whole relaxing weekend away in Door County for me and Matt? Is it the fact that today is Opening Day and this afternoon my favorite boys of summer will be taking the field again? Is it the simple reality that my life is full of love that wraps around, sinks into, and intersperses itself amongst all else of which my life consists?
"God is love. He didn't need us. But He wanted us. And that is the most amazing thing." Rick Warren

"Love wholeheartedly, be surprised, give thanks and praise - then you will discover the fullness of your life." Brother David Steindl-Rast

"The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of His love." Blessed Julian of Norwich

Monday, March 21, 2011

What A Difference A Day Makes

I'm not working tomorrow. There came an urgent need to take a day off. Just one day. A day not intended for other plans and occupations. A true day off. Granted, it's probably not all that urgent and might not qualify as a genuine need. Still, it's close enough. What shall I do? What shall I do with my day? There is something glorious, as many of you working folks and at home parents alike can verify, in the prospect of a day available for whatever you choose. The gloriousness does not come from planning on using it irresponsibly. Neither does it come from scheduling hour after hour with useful accomplishments to be made. It comes from the freedom to make of it what you will.

So I sit here, thinking through the keyboard, listening to Patty Griffin, considering a snack before bed and smiling over the notion of tomorrow. Of course I'm thinking of a dozen ways to use the hours but I'm not allowing myself to actually plan on any of them. I know I'll start the day with prayer and then... who knows.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

At The Library

After work yesterday I spent a good half hour or so among the books. Library... synonym for sanctuary, at least in my personal thesaurus. As I hadn't been to our library here in Appleton for more than five minutes in the last several months, the visit yesterday had me thinking about the hours I've spent in libraries in the course my twenty-nine years. Countless, really.

In junior high and high school, my sister and I walked after school to the tiny public library in our town. Two blocks from the school (those two blocks being the length of our 'downtown'), it was a squat, square building filled with shelves of delight. Jessica and I spent numerous afternoons there. Starting our homework, naturally, but more importantly, searching the stacks. That library is where we got hold of every single Sweet Valley High, Babysitter's Club, Nancy Drew, and Ramona book ever written. It's where we discovered Gilbert Morris, Lori Wick and Janette Oke. Heck, it's even where we discovered the nonsensical fun of People magazine. And it's where I first opened the pages of Pride & Prejudice. I can still picture that copy in my mind: large, with a dark green hard cover and drawn illustrations interspersed among the chapters.

Occasionally we'd stop at the larger library in the relatively larger town nearby (Menominee). I never knew my way around this two story stone building that well and each visit felt like an exploration. This one had wide bow windows overlookng the marina and Lake Michigan and thus I learned how remarkably well water views and reading go together.

I never liked the library at Grand Valley State. It was unwelcoming and hard. When I transferred to Franciscan though, I loved my library once again. Softer lighting, comfortable chairs, beautiful volumes.... A friend secured me a part time position as a clerk and I spent a few quiet hours behind the counter and returning books to their proper homes. I sporadically wondered how happy I'd be as a librarian.

The Appleton public library is unremarkable but adequate. I don't spend a lot of time there as it doesn't provide the cozy security I associate with the libraries I've loved. Nevertheless, the occasional visit - for longer than five minutes to pick something up that I have on hold - remains a delight to me. I will always feel at home among the books.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

How Small a Fire

I fell asleep while reading Persuasion. All the Jane Austen novels are worth reading (though Mansfield Park perhaps only once) but it is Persuasion that I return to time and time again. It is my literary comfort food. Among other things, the story is a demonstration of the terrible power of words. Words to persuade and convince, words to manipulate, words to hide behind, and words left unspoken for far too long. Only when words are spoken in humble honesty, without guile but with hope and courage, only then are things set aright and happiness slips into the grasp of the long suffering hero and heroine.

As this and other things this week have me considering the power of our words, the passage from James Chapter 3 came aptly to mind.
"If we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we also guide their whole bodies. It is the same with ships: even though they are so large and driven by fierce winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot's inclination wishes. In the same way the tongue is a small member and yet has great pretensions. Consider how small a fire can set a huge forest ablaze. The tongue is also a fire. It exists among our members as a world of malice, defiling the whole body and setting the entire course of our lives on fire, itself set on fire by Gehenna. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so, my brothers." (vv. 3-10)

It's a dire outlook on human communication but one that is unfortunately justified again and again. With the same mouth we worship God on Sunday mornings then tear down our neighbor, a priceless human being made in the image of God. "From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. This need not be so..." This need not be so. That comment cuts me to the quick. Encouragement and discouragement; love and hate; hope and fear; honesty and dishonesty; and on and on. Are we even aware of the fires we set with our words? Daily we engage in communication with one another, from the spouse to the stranger, and none of our words are without effect. None of them.

If we consider the power of our words for ill, are they not equally capable of good? Were we but more conscious of ourselves, more attuned to the responses of the other person, more concerned with building up another than ourselves... oh the good that could be done. Instead of violent fires, the flames set might be lamps added to one another's paths - paths often difficult enough to walk without us multiplying the difficulty for each other. Yes, the good that could be done.